There is no doubt that the 2016 referendum exposed deep divisions...
The referendum on 23rd June will probably be the most important political decision we are asked to make in our life-times so it merits thoughtful and prayerful preparation. So far the Brexit and Remain campaigns have offered us propaganda that muddies the picture and leaves neutrals uncertain what to think.
It would be inappropriate for me, under the Premier banner, to offer my own opinions so I want to suggest questions that might help you to clarify your thinking.
First, what role do you want the UK to play in world affairs? Our history is one of playing a larger role than our size suggests – the former empire, the Commonwealth and permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Would standing alone mean a loss of global influence? Would our capacity to reduce global warming and make changes to energy and industrial policies be enhanced or diminished by leaving the EU?
Economically, how important is UK access to the 500 million EU market? How strong would our bargaining power in international trade be if we leave the EU? How seriously do you take President Obama’s pessimism about this? Could we negotiate a better deal outside the EU? How secure is your job? Does the experience of Norway and Switzerland help to show what is possible outside the EU?
Politically, how concerned are you about the democratic deficit in the EU and its failure to take subsidiarity seriously? Do you think that the Prime Minister achieved a legally established ‘special status’ for us, so that we are exempt from an ‘ever closer union’? Do you think a two-speed EU can be made to work for every member’s advantage? Who would benefit most from the UK leaving the EU?
From a security perspective, how vulnerable to aggression from Russia, the Islamic State and other terrorists would the UK be outside the EU? Is leaving what President Putin wants us to do, as some MPs suggest? Does EU membership help us to prevent crime and catch criminals more effectively than if we stand alone?
Personally, what (if any) prejudices do you bring to this issue? How concerned are you about the current levels of immigration? Do you blame EU membership for the influx of immigrants or do you see a need for young skilled workers in our ageing population? How warmly do you think we should welcome immigrants fleeing persecution, war and oppression?
From a faith perspective, what biblical teaching do you find helpful in your prayers about how to vote? Does what the Old Testament says about how we relate to foreigners in our midst have any relevance? Does Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan influence your thinking? Which of the five perspectives above matter most to you? If you find the debate about our membership too focussed on the economic issues and too selfishly materialistic, what values do you want to influence your vote?
I appreciate that you may find this irritating, all questions and no answers, but the questions are intended to help you to decide how you will vote, not how I want you to vote. My only plea is that you do vote after prayerful reflection, seeking God’s guidance for the good of the nation as well as your own.